Jon Arge, artist
198 miles from Atlanta
When did you move to Asheville and what goals/dreams are you now pursuing while living there?
I relocated here in October of last year completely by accident. I came up for a few days to visit one of my oldest friends, and earliest collectors, who had bought a house here a few years ago. He was then leaving for the rest of the year on business so he asked if I might stay on and house sit.
As I can work on my craft anywhere I am, I thought, why not spend a few months in residence? Might be fun.
But, as is always the haunting danger of fun, it can quickly become a habit. Within two weeks here I was hooked. Pace, place, and space — Asheville was everything I’d ever wanted for right now this minute…
What are some of the best tourist spots to visit in Asheville?
Sightseeing is like food. While I like it to be visually pleasing, I don’t really care what it looks like — because I’m not going to just sit there looking at it — I want to know how it TASTES.
So, I always hit the ground watching the people at street level and go from there. I love this town for things like the Grove Park Inn. An absolutely monumental engineering marvel/affront to God for its day…
Or “Chief Pontiac” at Harry’s on the Hill. He’s a leftover early 20th century marketing madness four-story tall Indian. And as if that wasn’t unpolitical enough, if you stand at a certain angle to his left facing him, his thumb totally looks like his wang is hanging out of his pants.
And an entire, surprisingly vast, downtown that explodes with food, cocktails, cultures, classes, art, nonsense, history, trailblazing, unrest, and institution filled up and over with life at every stage.
[Also be sure to visit] places like The Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar in the Grove Arcade (which itself is utterly amazing) that features an unbelievable selection of incredible used books for cheap in a glorious setting of lives being lived with style to their fullest.
What are some of your favorite off-the-beaten-path spots to go to in Asheville?
The River Arts District along the mesmerizing French Broad River: It contains an insane diversity represented by what seems an endless parade of artists content to create without selling, while others have built internet empires on corporate principles. (Twice a year they hold a weekend Open Studio Tour whose scale is a wonder.) Or, West Asheville, which in itself, is like a whole other town complete with its own identity and groove. It’s like everyone in this region seems to be moving forward in either some established way or new frontier.
The Southern Kitchen & Bar has a fabulous staff that perfectly fits a crazily diverse clientele — the kind of amazing crowd you could only ever build anywhere else by suddenly canceling a flight to some far away fantastic place — all while serving a bacchanalia of food, life, and experience.
But, best of all, to me, is Trash, Inc: Creative Reuse Center. It absolutely represents completely the vibrancy, focus, delight, concerns, and celebration of this area. Run by a crazy in their obvious differences set of like-minded women, it exists to “divert usable materials from the waste-stream to be used in art, education, craft and DIY projects.”
Simply put, it’s the best working model example possible of thinking globally while acting locally. Never mind it’s a wonderland of potential and a Theme Park of Me.
Are you coming back to Atlanta? Do you have any of your work showing in Asheville that visitors can go to see, for example?
Of course I’m coming back! In the end, it’s not about where I am physically because, quite simply, I will forever reside in every single one of my pieces. I get to hang out anywhere my art hangs up. I’m very fortunate to still be a part of Atlanta’s vibrant art community because of Kai Lin Art’s representation there.
As for Asheville, I have yet to seek a gallery locally. I’m still lost in the glorious process of here and grateful for the unbelievable resources it has gifted me to do so. Until then, if you’re visiting, please contact me through https://www.facebook.com/JonArge and maybe we can meet up for a coffee or have a visit in my studio.
641 miles from Atlanta
When did you move from Atlanta and how long have you lived in D.C.?
I moved from Atlanta in June of last year to take a staff position with the U.S. House of Representatives. I’m coming up on a year in Washington, D.C.!
What is your favorite place to eat?
So hard to choose just one! Founding Farmers is this trendy but comfortable restaurant nestled between the White House and Georgetown, serving up the best in American cuisine. What’s cool about them is that they make everything (down to the salad dressings and sodas) in house, and they purchase a lot of their food from local producers to maintain its freshness. Oh, and the drink menu is amazing.
Also, Clyde’s is a D.C. staple. There are a couple of locations in the district, but my favorite is smack in the middle of the city in Chinatown…
What’s the biggest difference between Atlanta and D.C.? What is perhaps the most similar?
D.C.’s an extremely political town (go figure!), so almost everyone you meet is going to work in government or politics: Hill staffer, political appointee, government contractor, lobbyist, political reporter, etc. What you do and who you do it for are much more important here than in Atlanta.
People are friendly, but you have to be much more careful what you say (or tweet!) and who you say it to — in my experience, D.C. is even smaller than Atlanta in that way, and word travels fast.
Also, D.C. doesn’t have a Piedmont Park — nothing beats a day of great weather at Piedmont Park.
D.C. and Atlanta both share vibrant LGBT spaces, organizations and events, though. If you want to be active, you can connect with a host of groups doing great work, from the Victory Fund to the National Black Justice Coalition. If you want to be social, Dupont Circle and U Street are your playground. Like Atlanta, there are several places you can go and feel completely immersed in community.
What is something you can get away with in Atlanta (doing/wearing/etc) that you absolutely can’t do in D.C.?
I don’t think voguing and J-setting are as popular here as they are in the South. I miss going out and seeing the “kids” duckwalk, spin and dip!
What’s the best tourist spot to visit?
D.C. is full of iconic places, so it’s almost hard to pick just one. However, there’s nothing quite like the U.S. Capitol — so rich with history and eye-opening architecture. The tours are entertaining (stand in the room where Thomas Jefferson took the oath of office; see the desk location where Abraham Lincoln sat while he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives) and flexible (they do hour-long guided tours Monday-Saturday in 10 minute intervals). Come on a day that the Congress is in session, and you’re liable to run into a congressman or senator on their way to a vote. You can’t get that anywhere else in D.C.
What’s your favorite gay club? Is the D.C. gay scene similar to Atlanta’s scene?
In some ways, D.C.’s gay scene is a little more racially integrated than Atlanta’s. But what’s interesting is that I’ve found a D.C. equivalent to all of my favorite Atlanta spots: Nellie’s Sports Bar is our Blake’s — warm, friendly and always happening; The Fireplace is our Bulldogs — cozy with great music and strong drinks; Town and Cobalt are our Wetbar (for those of us who remember Wetbar) and Aqua is our Traxx — the places to be seen and dance the night away.
Nellie’s has to be my favorite LGBT spot in D.C. — always a great crowd, thumping music, and has a prime location right on U Street. Oh, and a Drag Brunch with bottomless mimosas on Sunday. Seriously, what’s not to love?
If you are traveling from Atlanta to D.C., what are some off-the-beaten-path spots you recommend to visit?
The H Street Corridor is D.C.’s best-kept secret. A cross between a permanent bar crawl and hipster hang-out, H Street is loaded with bars and lounges that cater to almost any taste. Go on a Friday or Saturday night — there are literally dozens of spots for good food, awesome drinks and endless entertainment.
My personal favorites are Horace & Dickies (the best fish you’ll ever taste in your life!) and The Argonaut (awesome beer selection and low-key atmosphere) for food, and the Atlas Performing Arts Center always has great entertainment from some of D.C.’s best local talent, including plays, concerts and recitals.
Fiona Zedde, author, latest novella “Nightshade”
456 miles from Atlanta
When did you move to Tampa?
I moved to Tampa in May 2010. I’m spending time with my mother, writing, and hanging with my girlfriend here until it’s time for us to move to Miami in late July.
What are some of the differences in the LGBT scenes in Atlanta and Tampa?
Oh, where do I begin? The scene is so huge and multi-faceted in Atlanta. No matter what kind of queer you are, there’s always something for you to do or a place to go.
In Tampa, the scene is comparatively small and narrowly focused with just a few events/evenings/bars scattered between here and St. Petersburg, the city across the water. For Tampa, that often means there’s a certain intimacy between people on the scene. Everyone knows everyone. Even more so than in Atlanta!
What are some of your favorite places to visit in Tampa?
My absolute favorite is the beach. There are so many beautiful stretches of beach in the Tampa/St. Pete/Clearwater area that you can make the rounds and not go back to the same beach for weeks. The people watching, sun soaking, and swimming are absolute prime.
I also love Jackson’s Bistro in downtown Tampa. It has a wicked awesome Sunday brunch (and you know we gays love brunch!), a great happy hour during the week, and beautiful views of the water.
Ybor City is a fabulous place to stroll, catch a bite, and make new friends, day or night. It’s like Tampa’s version of Little 5 Points but with more gays, a movie theater, and a trolley. My favorite Mediterranean restaurant, Row Boat, and my favorite bar, R Bar Ybor, are also down there. Good times all around.
After a long night in Ybor and the after-party at a friend’s house, I usually wake up the next morning to tea at Kaleisia Tea Lounge. The taro smoothie is an after, after-party in my mouth.
Jacy Topps, PR firm owner
New York City
880 miles away from Atlanta
When did you move to New York and what are you doing there?
I moved to New York in June 2010. I’m a freelance makeup artist, and I have started my own PR agency, Jacy Topps PR www.jacytoppspr.com.
What are some of your favorite places to go in NY — to hang out, to eat, to see music, to grab a drink?
V Spot is an awesome vegetarian restaurant in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Spitzer’s is my favorite restaurant in the East Village — they have 40 craft beers on tap. Grey Dog in Chelsea is a fun coffee house that serves wine and beer.
My favorite lesbian bars are Henrietta Hudson in the West Village and Ginger’s in Park Slope.
The Duplex Cabaret has an awesome patio. They also feature live performers and music. And my favorite gay bars are Pieces in the Village, Vlada in Hell’s Kitchen and the Metropolitan in Brooklyn.
If people from ATL were visiting NY, what are some places they should visit that aren’t necessarily in a tourist guide?
• Prospect Park — My favorite park in the city.
• Chelsea Market — It has great coffee shops, restaurants and shopping.
• School of Visual Arts — They have open studio tours every week featuring their students and it’s free.
2,175 miles away from Atlanta
When did you move to L.A. and why?
I moved to LA in Feb of 2012 to expand my business and my personal horizons. I am a DJ and bartender at Micky’s West Hollywood as well as a DJ for other various venues around the city.
What are some of the hot places you’ve learned about since moving to L.A.?
So far some of the best spots I’ve been to in L.A. are Sky Bar located off of Sunset, Next Door Lounge off Highland, Micky’s off Santa Monica (known for dancers and crazy fun theme nights), along with other gay bars along the strip including Here Lounge, The Abbey… MR Black at Bardot is also good times.
As far as restaurants go, Saint Felix (an amazing tapas bar with exquisite mixology cocktails) is one of my favorite places to go for a bite and beverage. Katana, a Japanese restaurant, is great. I love me some Tender Greens and California Chicken Cafe, and Lemonade.
For visual and outdoor experiences I highly recommend driving through Malibu on the Pacific Coast highway and finding a nice beach to park it and catch some rays. Runyon Canyon is also a fun hike with some amazing views.
A lot of everything in Los Angeles is very artistically placed together, but there is a grungy part of the city as well where you get graffiti artists that tag all walls and buildings all over the place. Most of the small works of art are strategically placed so they are not necessarily tacky, and the ones that are, seem to be removed where they aren’t necessarily wanted.
There are also multiple independent boutique shops all over the place, most of which are really cool and different than something you would see in a shopping mall. Even though there are malls that consist of the normal Crate & Barrel and Banana Republic that you might find over at the Grove, most of the fun shopping is located around off of Melrose and in Beverly Hills.
What are some things you can do in Atlanta but you can’t do in LA?
Bars close at 2 a.m. here, although some stay open later but do not sell alcohol past those hours. There is no all male strip club located in Los Angeles.
Are there many difference and/or similarities in the gay scenes in Atlanta and LA?
West Hollywood is like Midtown but larger, and East Atlanta and Little Five Points are like Silverlake. The scenes are quite relative.
What are some of your favorite gay-friendly places to go for a bite to eat, have a drink, listen to great music, dance your ass off?
For dancing, The Factory, Ultra Suede, or Avalon. As far as coming to see me live you can check my DJ schedule and upcoming events on my Facebook page: www.Facebook.com/DJayMcCracken. For free music: http://soundcloud.com/jaymccracken
Vagina Jenkins, burlesque dancer
2,175 miles away from Atlanta
When did you move to L.A. and why did you leave Atlanta?
I moved to LA in July after a detour in Ohio (ugh! the less said the better).
I left Atlanta because I wanted a challenge. Atlanta will always feel like home for me in so many ways (a huge black community, a sizable radical queer community, my chosen family lives there, the GREAT food, etc.,) but I had to shake myself out of my comfort zone.
What are you doing in L.A.?
What am I doing in L.A.? Well, I’m doing what everybody else is doing — trying to become a star! Which is only about half way a joke…
There’s also the body consciousness people have here. I’ve always been a proud fat girl/ fat-positive ally. Whether I gain or lose weight I’m always going to be the girl who champions the idea of Health At Every Size and loving one’s body against all odds, but some days here are difficult.
Between my day job, my gigs and just being out and about I’d have to say the average woman in L.A. is about 5’3” and maybe 110 pounds. At 5’9 and 184 pounds I am a GIANT. Sometimes it can feel a little daunting.
But mostly I try and pretend I’m Gulliver in the land of the Lilliputians — well, Gulliver if he was a traveling stripper with a heart as black as coal.
What do you find the same about L.A. as you remember in Atlanta?
I make this comparison a lot, but because it rings so true for me. For me, Atlanta is kind of this nexus of African-American cultural heritage and history. It’s a place that feels intensely like the closest thing black folks in America have to a capital or maybe a mecca.
LA feels that way around brown-ness. They’re doing a lot to preserve Latino American migration histories, cultural traditions and iconography everywhere. This place is steeped in brown history and struggle and I *LOVE* it for that. And I sincerely look forward to learning so much more about Latino American freedom movements and histories. I’m down with brown!
What tourist spots, if any, have you visited and what are your thoughts?
Um, the Hollywood Hills are boo-boo. Seriously, trash, don’t waste your time. They say it’s kind of a metaphor for the movie industry, right. From far away it looks amazing and is iconic — up close, it’s sad, uneven, beat up and just really tragic.
You know what cheesy tourist attraction I LOVE though? Freakin’ Venice Beach. It’s super touristy, but SO MUCH FUN. And something for everybody. Artmakers, dance, athleticism, serious eye candy (which reminds me, did you know they don’t have butches here? travesty!), and the Pacific Ocean, which is beautiful in a new and different kind of way.
Parking is difficult on the weekends so be sure and take the Metro bus in. Or come on a random weekday if you want an easy, less crowded time.
What about a bar or club? Place for entertainment? Place to see you perform?
L.A.’s longest running weekly burlesque show Monday Night Tease is the place to be on Monday Nights. It’s at the 3 of Clubs, 1123 Vine St. I’ve performed there more than any other venue in L.A.
What are other places tourists should not miss?
Grand Performances! They do amazing summer performances, talks, demos, etc., and it’s all free. Last summer I got to see a guy talk about how to pickle things and Afrobeat sensation Seun Kuti! You can’t beat free stuff. As always, parking is a beast, so take the bus in or plan to pay on average $5 for parking.
Tell us a little about the LGBTQ/queer scene in L.A.
OK, this is stuff I’m still trying to figure out. The thing that’s difficult about L.A. is that everything is really spread out and because traffic and parking are so miserable, most people don’t stray too far from home. So the queers I have met out and about have been amazing, but no one lives close enough to me for it to feel like real “community” if that makes sense?
For me, as stereotypically Southern as it sounds, community means seeing folks on the regular, bumping into them at the grocery store. Or knowing that if you pop into your local gay bar there’s bound to be a few familiar faces.
With the caveat that I’ve been here less than a year… folks just feel really … I dunno, distant. AND THE BUTCHES! Ya know, back in MY day… but seriously they do butch very differently than I’m used to. Southern butches, bois, self-made men and other masculine of center folks, I sincerely miss you with all my heart. Nothing beats a Cuntry Boi!